The Earliest Signs of Brain Damage in Athletes? Listen for Them

from the study, to be published that will week from the journal Brain along with Language, researchers at Arizona State University tracked a steeper decline in vocabulary size along with various other verbal skills in 10 players who spoke at news conferences over an eight-year period, compared with 18 coaches along with executives who had never played professional football along with who also spoke in news conferences during the same period.

The players included seven quarterbacks, one nose tackle, one cornerback along with one wide receiver. Although the smaller sample size along with limited study period prevented reaching definitive conclusions, the findings underscored the need for larger, long-term studies of improvements in spoken along with written language that will could be harbingers of severe brain damage later in life.

along with not just for injuries related to C.T.E. Development of a reliable linguistic tool could also help evaluate head injuries among military personnel along with victims of domestic violence, said Dr. Javier Cardenas, who directs the Concussion along with Brain Injury Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.

Someday such a test may help scientists detect along with monitor many neurological disorders, said Dr. Richard Caselli, a professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona — including individuals who are without symptoms, nevertheless are at genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists, patients along with families have been dismayed by the failure of drugs to effectively treat or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Many experts suspect that will patients in their studies have been too late from the disease’s course for the therapies to work. nevertheless to find patients from the subtle early stages, they need a diagnostic test.

For decades, doctors said they believed that will C.T.E. was limited to boxers. the idea was called punch-drunk syndrome. More recently, pathologists have reported similar brain damage among a wider range of athletes, like rugby along with professional hockey players. Scientists say they believe the biological processes underlying the ailments start many years before recognizable symptoms appear.

Dr. Visar Berisha, lead author of the brand new study, along with his colleagues at Arizona State, have been working for several years to develop tests to identify individuals at risk of brain damage by various ailments.

In 2015, his team reported subtle improvements that will have been linked to the onset of dementia in former President Ronald Reagan’s speaking patterns during news conferences. These were apparent years before doctors gave him the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in 1994.

The study did not prove that will Mr. Reagan suffered dementia that will adversely affected his judgment along with ability to make decisions while in office. along with the brand new findings about football players do not prove that will the players will develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy, said Julie Liss, a communications professor at Arizona State along that has a co-author of both studies.

Still, findings by various other studies provide no reason to expect a decline in linguistic ability in healthy individuals, Dr. Berisha said.

He along with his colleagues tracked the words the players along with coaches along with executives spoke spontaneously in 10,000 pregame along with postgame interviews along with news conferences by 2007 to 2015, using transcripts of interviews that will 11 N.F.L. teams posted on their websites.

Only 28 players, coaches along with executives met an important criterion: that will each subject had spoken at least 30,000 words from the interviews.

Conversation requires a series of mental steps, starting when the brain identifies the words needed to express an idea. The brain arranges the words in a recognizable order before the individual moves muscles to articulate speech.

The researchers used two standard, simple measures of verbal ability. One was the ratio of the number of verbs, nouns, adjectives along with adverbs to the total number of words spoken. The second was a ratio of the number of distinct words a player or coach or executive used in a news conference or interview to the total number of words spoken.

As neurologically healthy individuals age, measures of the complexity of their use of words along with vocabulary remain stable or even increase until about the mid-70s. nevertheless the study found a distinct difference in language improvements between groups of players, coaches along with executives over time.

Of the 10 players, seven showed a decline in one of the measures; four showed a decline in both. Of the 18 coaches along with executives, eight showed a decline in one measure along with all 5 a decline in both. The players were significantly more likely to show signs of verbal deterioration, the researchers concluded.

Many factors like the setting, topic or whether a player was on a winning or losing team can affect language used in just one interview or news conference or over a short period. nevertheless “persistent, unremitting change spanning years, as seen from the professional football players studied, can be cause for concern,” Dr. Berisha said.

The researchers did not name the players, nevertheless reported their position, age at the time of the first interview from the study, the number of years of college education along with how long they had played professionally.

For quarterbacks, Dr. Berisha listed the average number of sacks per game as a proxy for head injuries. Those with fewer sacks showed a less pronounced decline, nevertheless the number of players was too smaller to provide a statistically meaningful finding.

Dr. Berisha’s team is usually planning a larger study at Arizona State University of football, hockey along with soccer players. The athletes will download an app on their smartphones along with provide speech samples from the preseason along with periodically thereafter. The researchers also will track any concussions the players experience during the season.

The two data sources will form a basis for evaluating speech along with language improvements over time after a concussion. Dr. Berisha said his team also was “working with industry along with several clinics nationally to evaluate its measures on a large scale.”

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The Earliest Signs of Brain Damage in Athletes? Listen for Them

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